Several new startups in the United States are attempting to get rid of gas stations. Through the use of a simple app, a customer’s gas tank can be filled up while they’re working, at the gym, or laying in bed relaxing.
In Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Nashville, gas delivery trucks from Filld, WeFuel, Booster Fuels, and Purple have made their debut. While this sounds like a convenient and exciting new service, some city officials believe that transporting hundreds of gallons of gas may pose serious safety hazards.
Jonathan Baxter from the San Francisco fire department explained that if residents notice any of these companies filling up gas tanks around the city, they should immediately contact the fire department. Nick Alexander, co-founder of Yoshi in San Francisco was surprised by Baxter’s remarks and explained that Yoshi is abiding to the law and ensuring their fuel tanks are under the limits of the International Fire Code guideline.
Chris Aubuchon, the CEO of a Silicon Valley startup known as Filld disclosed that asking for permission should be avoided because it will never be granted. A policy regarding gasoline delivery is currently being drafted by the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Daniel Curry, a San Francisco fire department spokesman stated that their fire regulations do not currently allow gas delivery. However, ways to allow this convenience with some regulations are being considered.
Booster Fuels in San Francisco Bay informed customers that it was putting a halt to fuel delivery in the area and waiting for the city to review its permit application. Aubuchon of Filld revealed that the fire department had also told his startup to stop services in other parts of the country. Despite the fire department’s orders, Filld has continued operations. Aubuchon stated that safety is a huge priority to the company and if gas delivery is illegal, he should have been notified months ago.
How Gas is Delivered
On a Monday morning, 40 miles south of San Francisco, Aubuchon drove a Ford F-250 pickup full of 324 gallons of gas, a pump, a bucket of chalk to absorb spills, two traffic cones, and a receipt printer to the parking garage of a hospital in Palo Alto. The pickup nearly scraped the garage ceiling with its radio antenna.
After a few wrong turns, Aubuchon found the silver Mini Cooper he was looking for. He filled the vehicle with six gallons of gas, printed out a paper receipt, and emailed a copy of the receipt to the Mini Cooper’s owner. Once he was done, he stored his supplies back in his pickup and drove off.
Aubuchon states that the land value in San Francisco is increasing and as a result, gas stations are becoming sparse. While farmers, construction companies, and isolated homes have been using diesel fuel and gasoline delivery services for years, gas delivery to customers in residential communities for convenience is new.
Various Business Models
These gas delivery startups reveal that owning a truck is more cost effective than owning a fuel station and the more fuel they sell, the less they’ll have to pay per gallon. They are constantly testing and perfecting their business models.
At Purple, customers can receive gas within an hour by simply tapping its app. Purple’s drivers are everyday individuals with no special qualifications. Although Filld runs around the clock, the company asks its customers to schedule a delivery via their app a few hours in advance. Unlike Purple, Filld hires commercial drivers with the Hazmat certification. Yoshi and Booster perform gas delivery services in office parking lots while Purple and Filld are focused on residential neighborhoods.
Regulation requirements for gas startups continue to be a challenge. Counties are required to certify whether a gas meter is calibrated properly to ensure that customers are not paying too much for gas. On May 24th, a meeting by the California government agency responsible for the state’s fire departments will be held to discuss gas delivery. The agency believes that the startups fail to meet the requirements to be able to operate safely.